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Beebe's style draws "Natural" comparisons

Kevin Iole
Yahoo Sports

By Kevin Iole Yahoo! Sports

LAS VEGAS – If you've watched mixed martial arts for more than two weeks, you probably think you know who this guy is:

He's a fighter with a decorated wrestling background who takes pride in adding something to his game every fight, who speaks softly and humbly and only in the most reverential tones about the sport and his opponents.

He's a champion who is friendly and approachable, hardly impressed by his status, and who is confident of victory in a quiet and understated way.

And though it sounds suspiciously like a description of UFC heavyweight champion Randy Couture, it's actually WEC bantamweight champion Chase Beebe.

OK, the 22-year-old Beebe calls Couture his idol and says one of the goals of his life is to meet the UFC Hall of Famer in person, so perhaps it's best to look at him as Couture's Mini Me.

Certainly, Beebe, who defends his title against Rani Yahya at WEC 30 on Wednesday night at the Hard Rock Hotel in a fight televised live nationally on Versus, isn't complaining about any comparisons to Couture.

WATCH VIDEO: Chase Beebe and Rani Yayha are set for a bantamweight showdown.
"Oh, no, are you kidding?" he said. "It's just an honor for me to fight in front of him."

Beebe, who is 12-1, was a four-time high school state wrestling champion in Illinois who wound up at Purdue.

When he got there, he thought he was pretty good and dreamed of winning titles and making All-American.

It wasn't long, though, before he was humbled. Any notions he had of his own status were quickly erased when he began competing in Big Ten wrestling matches.

"I kind of got burned out on wrestling because as a freshman, they threw me in there against a Big Ten schedule and there are some bad dudes in Division I wrestling," Beebe said. "You think you're a good wrestler, but you get put in your place real quick against those guys."

He left Purdue after his freshman year and transferred to Eastern Illinois, the same college that produced UFC veteran Matt Hughes, who went on to two-time NCAA Division II All-America status. He was going to wrestle for the Panthers, but the school disbanded the wrestling program.

Beebe, though, wasn't heartbroken. He's still attending classes and pursuing a degree in Economics, but discovered he's best suited for MMA.

Wrestling involves lots of sacrifice and few tangible rewards. MMA also requires great sacrifice, but Beebe pointed out the popularity of the sport is booming and the financial rewards are growing rapidly.

"No one really cares about wrestling," Beebe said. "You bust your butt, day in and day out, and no one cares except the wrestling community. It's not like football or basketball or anything like that. Your efforts are worth something to you and the people in wrestling, but not really to the rest of the world.

"MMA, man, that's it. Everybody's all about it. Everyone's into it. And in wrestling, there is no opportunity for a financial gain, but you can really do pretty good in MMA."

His idol, Couture, proved that, leaving a decorated wrestling career to become rich and famous while fighting in the UFC.

Couture, who was a three-time All-American and a two-time runner-up at 190 pounds while at Oklahoma State, tried MMA on a lark in 1997 and has gone on to win the UFC heavyweight title three times and the UFC light heavyweight title twice.

Beebe said he has no expectation of matching what Couture's done in MMA, but he's going to give it a good try.

And, like Couture, he'll face a stiff challenge from a jiu-jitsu expert in his first title defense. Couture managed to get past Gabriel Gonzaga and Beebe will have find a way to overcome Yahya's submissions.

Yahya won his weight class title at the Abu Dhabi submission grappling championships in April. Yayha made his WEC debut a memorable one back on June 3, when he submitted the well-regarded Mark Hominick in just over one minute.

Beebe, though, is hardly intimidated. He believes he'll find a way to overcome Yahya's submissions and retain his belt.

"He's great, phenomenal, in jiu-jitsu, but MMA is a sport where you need more than just one thing," he said. "I think I'm more well-rounded than he is. That's the difference. I have more ways to win the fight than he does."